Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – August 4

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Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

By Peter Schorsch (Peter@FloridaPolitics.com; @SaintPetersBlog) with Phil Ammann (Phil@FloridaPolitics.com; @PhilAmmann) and Ryan Ray (Ryan@FloridaPolitics.com @RyanRay_Fla)

GOP HOPEFULS TAKE ON ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION IN DEBATE PREVIEW via Kathleen Ronayne and Steve Peoples of the Associated Press

The Republican Party’s presidential class demanded aggressive steps to curb illegal immigration, seizing on a delicate political issue while facing off in New Hampshire … during a crowded and pointed preview of the 2016 primary season’s first full-fledged debate.

All but three of the 17 major Republican candidates for president participated in what was essentially a debate lite, which – unlike Thursday’s nationally televised debate in Cleveland – didn’t have a cut-off for participation.

Without exception, the candidates aimed their criticism at Democrats instead of each other in a two-hour meeting where they had more in common than not. Not mentioned was the candidate making the most news … Donald Trump. The billionaire businessman declined to participate … but is poised to take center stage later in the week.

Rick Perry … called the flow of immigrants crossing the border illegally “a serious wound.” Rick Santorum went further, calling for a 25 percent reduction of low-skilled immigrants coming into the country legally.

Just an hour before the forum began, the Senate blocked a GOP-backed bill to strip funding from Planned Parenthood, reviving a debate on social issues that some Republican officials hoped to avoid in 2016.

Three of the four senators participating … Marco Rubio … Ted Cruz … Rand Paul … did so via satellite from C-SPAN’s Washington studio so they wouldn’t miss the high-profile vote.

“We had to be here to vote to de-fund Planned Parenthood,” Cruz said.

Hillary Clinton, who would be the nation’s first female president, lashed out at the attacks on Planned Parenthood in a web video released before the GOP forum.

“If this feels like a full-on assault for women’s health, that’s because it is,” Clinton said in the video, criticizing by name former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Perry.

GOP CANDIDATES SHRINK IN NEW HAMPSHIRE FORUM via the New York Times

After weeks of preparing for a smash-mouth debate with Trump, 14 Republican candidates found themselves instead Trump-less but sandwiched into a constricting format on Monday night, delivering strikingly uneven performances just days before the first big test of the presidential primary contest.

“Rather than making the other contenders look more presidential, however, the event … seemed to shrink the candidates. Assembled in the front row, the Republicans gawked as each rival took his or her turn on stage, looking at times as if they were being forced to sit through a tedious school assembly.

BEST TWEETS  FROM THE VOTERS FIRST FORUM

— @DJGroup: Something terribly wrong at #VotersFirst – @JebBush speaking and @SlaterBayliss not on television…yet..

 @DebitKing: This “Voters First Presidential Forum” is kind of a strange format. Was the crowd ordered not to clap?

— @LukeRussert: This C-SPAN candidate forum is political junkie speed dating.

— @NoahCRothman: Graham have the best answer of the night, because it was off script. A nothing to lose answer not designed to win anyone over. Refreshing.

— @American_Bridge: Jeb! could really use some debate practice after rambling on and getting cut off by the moderator.

— @OKTaylor: Things I learned tonight: there’s something called the Jeb! swag store.

 — @LearyReports: Preview of Thursday .. in-box filling with oppo/talking points from campaigns, partisan groups.

— @KatherineMiller: Why not make the 5 p.m. GOP forum a play-in game for the 10th debate spot? AND why not make it a game of $10,000 Pyramid with random voters?

NEW POLLS SUGGEST RICK PERRY OUT OF THURSDAY DEBATE via Steve Shepard of POLITICO

It appears increasingly unlikely that Rick Perry will get a chance to atone for his disastrous 2012 debate performance – or attack his 2016 nemesis, Trump – when Republicans spar for the first time Thursday in Cleveland. A Fox News poll out Monday night pegs the former Texas governor, who entered the race last cycle as the nominal favorite but has failed to gain traction this time around, at just 1 percent.

That puts Perry at only 2 percent in an average of polls that Fox News, which will air the first GOP presidential debate, will use to determine which candidates get the prime-time audience.

The beneficiaries of Perry’s slide: John Kasich and Chris Christie, who are currently in ninth and tenth place, respectively. Both are at 3 percent in the Fox poll and sit more than a point ahead of Perry in an average of polls, regardless of how that average is computed. Coming in behind Kasich and Christie are Carly Fiorina and Rick Santorum. Both are at 2 percent in the Fox survey, but they are roughly 2 points behind Kasich and Christie in the average. Bobby Jindal, who had been in 12th place behind Perry, ranked with Perry at 1 percent. Jim GilmoreLindsey Graham and George Pataki registered no support or under a half-point.

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JEB BUSH UNVEILS BORDER SECURITY, IMMIGRATION REFORM PLAN via Sergio Bustos and Alicia Caldwell of the Associated Press

Bush outlined plans … to improve security of the nation’s borders and enforcement of its existing immigration laws, calling both a requirement before any president could begin to address the status of the estimated 11 million people living in the country illegally.

“Finding a practical solution to the status of the people who are here illegally today is a nonstarter if our borders are not secure against future illegal immigration,” the former Republican governor of Florida said … A focus on border security as a pre-condition of any overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws has become a common policy point among many of the Republican candidates for president.

But Bush’s focus on this aspect of the debate is notable, given the months he has spent defending his support for creating a path to permanent legal status for those in the country illegally — a position that is deeply unpopular among the party’s most passionate primary voters.

Many aspects of Bush’s border security proposal, from creating “forward-operating bases” to increasing the use of drones and other technology to watch for drug and human traffickers, are not new.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Bush and Rubio will sit for interviews with Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

FOX NEWS POLL: NEW HIGH FOR TRUMP via Dana Blanton

Trump continues to gain ground in the race for the Republican nomination.  What’s more, the number of GOP primary voters saying they would at least consider backing Trump has more than doubled in the last two months.

Trump receives the backing of 26 percent of self-identified Republican primary voters — up from 18 percent in mid-July and 11 percent a month ago. That’s not only the highest level of support for Trump, but it’s also the highest any GOP candidate has received since the Fox poll began asking the question in December 2013.

Trump’s rise hasn’t hurt former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who garners 15 percent and is the only other Republican in double-digits.  He was at 14 percent in mid-July and 15 percent in June.

Behind Trump and Bush, it’s Walker at 9 percent, Carson at 7 percent,  Cruz and Huckabee at 6 percent each, Rubio and Paul at 5 percent a piece, and Christie and Kasich get 3 percent each.

WMUR POLL: TRUMP SURGES TO TOP OF GOP PRIMARY FIELD IN NH via John DiStaso of WMUR

For the first time in the 2016 Republican presidential primary campaign, there is a clear Granite State frontrunner … Trump’s strong standing in national polls is also the case in first-primary state New Hampshire.

The latest WMUR Granite State Poll … says Trump is the top choice of 24 percent of likely GOP primary voters, doubling the support of fBush, who is backed by 12 percent. Walker, at 11 percent, is the only other candidate in double digits.

Not only has Trump surged to the head of the pack in New Hampshire, but also for the first time, he is now viewed favorably by more likely GOP primary voters than unfavorably. And, he is named as the candidate best able to handle key issues facing the nation, from the economy to terrorism, and from immigration to health care policy. Yet likely voters are unsure if Trump will actually win the primary in February.

MY TAKE: IT COULD GET WORSE FOR MARCO RUBIO via Florida Politics

Let’s assume — and this is a big assumption — that Rubio falls to eighth place in the aggregate of the national polls. The cut-off for Thursday’s GOP debate is tenth place. Rubio’s in no danger of missing the festivities in Cleveland.

But what about the next debate? And the one after that? I’m told the same Top 10 rule will be used for subsequent debates. Could Rubio fall out of the Top 10? To quote Vizzini from The Princess Bride, that inconceivable — or is it.

You have to assume that Ohio Governor John Kasich, with his money, message, and momentum, will slip past Rubio, pushing the Floridian into ninth place. Then, assuming Rubio doesn’t rise, Chris Christie and Rick Perry would have to leapfrog Marco to knock him off the stage. Is this likely to happen, probably not, but it’s certainly possible. If Trump implodes, there will be a period where Christie gobbles up some of his support before Trump falls out of/leaves the race. Christie is definitely going to get a second look from Republican primary voters. As for Perry, it’s hard to believe his star can outshine Rubio, but stranger things have happened.

Heck, there’s even a poll out of Iowa (albeit one from Gravis) that has Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal in fourth place in Iowa. Were he to catch fire, that also could be very bad news for Rubio.

Imagine Rubio having to limp back to Miami after being left out of a presidential debate.

It’s almost inexplicable, given Rubio’s fundraising, his personal biography, and his ambition, that he is performing so poorly in the polls. As Leary notes, Rubio’s favorability with Republican primary voters is one of the best net-numbers in the field. He’s also almost every voters’ second choice if their favorite horse falters.

My theory is that Rubio’s message is too one-dimensional. It’s American Exceptionalism or bust. We get it Marco, you’re the son of a bartender (me too, that one of the reasons why I’ve always liked you), but what’s the follow-up? Rubio could get away with repeating the same speech at Lincoln Day Dinners in Florida; he can’t do the same thing on the presidential trail in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.

ACTUAL VIDEO: “MAKING MACHINE-GUN BACON WITH TED CRUZ” Watch here

Lindsey Graham put his cell phone in a blender. Rand Paul stuffed the tax code into a wood chipper. And on Monday, Ted Cruz became the latest Republican presidential contender to resort to a viral video to distinguish himself from his rivals.

The new video produced, by IJ Review, the conservative media outlet that brought you such hits as “How To Destroy Your Cell Phone with Lindsey Graham,” features Cruz demonstrating how to cook bacon the way he claims they do it in Texas. In the video, Cruz wraps a strip of bacon around the barrel of a machine gun, covering it in tin foil, then shooting at a target until the grease starts to drip onto the cement. Cruz then unwraps the tin foil and takes a fork to the sizzling meat. “Mmm, machine-gun bacon,” he says. Then he tilts his head back slightly and laughs.

PRO-HILLARY CLINTON SUPERPAC NETS JUST $250K IN FLORIDA MONEY via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times

When the pro-Hillary Clinton SuperPAC Priorities USA Action released its half-year contribution summary late Friday, there was understandably little fanfare.

The pro-Bush Right to Rise SuperPAC had already blown the doors off of any other campaign entity earlier that day, disclosing its astounding $103 haul Priorities USA netted barely more than 15 percent of that, at $15.6 million.

One subplot that may be worth paying attention to, though? Florida money. Every SuperPAC penny will help when it comes to coordinating messaging (independent of campaigns, of course) in the large, diverse state of Florida.

The numbers aren’t good for the former secretary of state. Clinton’s SuperPAC backers raked in just $250,000 in Florida, and all from one donor, real estate developer James Pugh.

By comparison, Right to Rise reported $862,425 from 32 donors whose last names start with “A.” Seriously.

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IN CD 2 — MARY THOMAS GOES AFTER GWEN GRAHAM ON ABORTION via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News

Now facing Panama City urologist Neal Dunn in the Republican primary, Mary Thomas tried to get her conservative credentials in order … as she went after U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham … on abortion … demanded Graham return campaign money she had received from Planned Parenthood.

“It’s been over two weeks since the Family Research Council (FRC) exposed Rep. Gwen Graham for accepting $5,500 in campaign contributions from Planned Parenthood,” Thomas said … “While videos continue to be released showing how Planned Parenthood sold aborted baby parts for profit, Rep. Graham remains silent on the issue. Rep. Graham’s acceptance of Planned Parenthood’s support and her silence after it’s been proven that her benefactors at Planned Parenthood sold aborted baby parts, is an outrage to the people that she claims to represent. I join FRC in demanding that Rep. Graham return the $5,500 she received in campaign contributions from Planned Parenthood.”

IN CD 13 — CHARLIE CRIST BUYS HOUSE ON ST. PETE BEACH via Susan Taylor Martin and Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times

After decades as a renter … Crist has finally taken the plunge into home ownership … closed on a 1,480 square foot cottage on St. Pete Beach. Though across the street from an often-crowded public beach, the vintage home with garage apartment has “beautiful views of the Gulf of Mexico,” the listing said.

The purchase price was not immediately known. When the house hit the market in November, the asking price was $995,000.

In a brief interview … Crist said that the potential of running for Congress played no role in his decision to move.

AMERICA RISING TROLLS CRIST’S HOME PURCHASE: Crist laughably claimed that the decision was not motivated by a potential congressional run. Crist said, “It was just a nice opportunity in a part of St. Petersburg we love.” But later in the same interview, Crist said, “I want to make sure my home is in” the newly redrawn congressional district. Given Crist’s perennial campaigning mode, it’s fairly safe to assume that the latter answer is the actual reason for his purchase.

CORRINE BROWN CALLS FOR CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT REQUIRING MEDICAID EXPANSION IN FLORIDA via Andrew Pantazi of The Florida Times-Union

If the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott won’t pass Medicaid expansion, then U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown said she will let voters decide with a constitutional amendment — after she figures out the ballot language, prints the petition and finds volunteers across the state who will organize petition drives. She won’t be airing any radio or television advertisements, she said, but she’ll rely on person-to-person interaction to get the minimum of almost 700,000 petitions signed.

She gathered in Jacksonville to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the signing of Medicare and Medicaid law, and in the middle of her celebratory speech, she shifted focus to her new initiative — forcing Florida’s government to take federal dollars to expand health care.

“How can we get the legislature to take that money?” she asked. “We are going to participate in a statewide petition drive. That is the kickoff of what we’re doing today.”

Though the Florida Senate passed a plan to expand Medicaid, the House rejected it, and Florida remains one of 21 states that have not expanded Medicaid or approved an alternative that qualifies for federal health care dollars. Brown says the state is missing out on money that it is sending to the federal government and that the federal government is spending elsewhere as long as Florida doesn’t expand Medicaid.

Florida House Republicans have criticized the plan to expand Medicaid, calling it a broken system that doesn’t work.

LAWMAKERS URGED TO PROVIDE MORE TRANSPARENCY IN MAP DRAWING via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

One week before the start of a special legislative session … the League of Women Voters is questioning the level of transparency.

League President Pamela Goodman, joined by Common Cause, sent a letter to legislative leaders … in which she hinted at possible legal action if the new map isn’t developed in public view.

Goodman questioned the July 20 memo from Senate President Andy Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli in which both men said a new “base map” would be “drafted solely by staff in collaboration with counsel, without our participation or the participation of any other member, and will be provided simultaneously to all members and the public prior to the convening of the special session.”

Challenging that move, Goodman writes: “We believe that the ‘base map’ should be discussed and drawn in public, as that map will play a central role in the legislative process of drawing the Congressional redistricting plan. We hope and expect that the Legislature will provide a mechanism for the public to view the drawing of the ‘base map’ and any associated discussions,” including live streaming on the web.

DEBBIE DOOLEY BLASTS 60 PLUS ENDORSEMENT OF OPPOSING SOLAR POWER AMENDMENT via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

60 Plus, the self-described conservative alternative to AARP, has endorsed one of the dueling constitutional amendments on solar power that its backers are hoping to get on the ballot next year in Florida.

Floridians for Solar Choice had all the early momentum … they’ve been quickly eclipsed by the more corporate friendly Consumers for Smart Solar proposal … the new amendment getting broad support, while Floridians for Solar Choice’s proposal is trailing.

Debbie Dooley is with the Green Tea Coalition and Conservatives For Energy Freedom, both supporters of the Floridians for Solar Choice amendment. She says it’s not surprising to hear of 60 Plus’ endorsement.

Dooley, an original founder of the national Tea Party, is clearly growing weary of having her conservative credentials being assailed. Undoubtedly some of that conservative backlash is coming because she’s working closely with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE), a progressive environmental organization that has contributed significant amounts of funding to Floridians for Solar Choice to get their proposal on the 2016 ballot.

And Dooley is predicting that Consumers of Smart Solar’s amendment proposal will be rejected by the Florida Supreme Court when/if they get the necessary number of signatures (over 68,000) to qualify for a court review of their ballot language.

BATTLE OVER AMENDMENT 1 HEATS UP THIS WEEK via Lloyd Dunkelberger of GateHouse Media Services

Another constitutional fight involving the Florida Legislature will be revving up this week … The issue is whether House and Senate members followed the requirements of a newly approved state constitutional amendment that mandated the state spend some $740 million on environmental programs, with a heavy emphasis on the purchase of endangered land.

David Guest, a lawyer for Earthjustice, the environmental advocacy group that filed the lawsuit, said he expects the Legislature to file a motion asking a trial judge to dismiss the lawsuit, which was filed in late June on behalf of several environmental groups, including the Florida Wildlife Federation and St. Johns Riverkeeper … the state’s motion is a standard legal move in what is likely another protracted battle over whether the Legislature is implementing or ignoring a citizen-backed constitutional initiative that was approved by 75 percent of the Florida voters last year.

The real crux of the fight is that environmental groups expected more money to be pumped into actual land purchases, including reviving the moribund Florida Forever program, which once had a $300 million budget under former Gov. Bush. The Legislature ended up providing $15 million for Florida Forever, with leaders like (state Sen. AlanHays, who has been openly skeptical of the need to acquire vast new tracts of land, arguing that there is more to conservation than land buying.

The lawsuit identifies a total of $88.7 million in land acquisition funding, less than 12 percent, of the $740 million total. But if the bond debt, which represents the cost of land purchases, is added, it rises to about 38 percent of the total.

FLORIDA REPUBLICAN PARTY BATTLES SLUMP IN FUNDRAISING via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times

This should be a time for the Republican Party of Florida to rake in the dollars. Instead, the state party is in the middle of its worst fundraising stretch in six years amid growing disunity with the GOP ranks and donors forsaking the party to instead put their money into the political action committees of favored candidates.

Between April and June, the RPOF raised just $1.9 million — marking the lowest fundraising quarter for the state’s dominant party since 2009 when the GOP was still reeling from President Barack Obama winning the presidency. Back then, the party was led by Jim Greer, who resigned later that year and eventually pleaded guilty to theft and money laundering of party donations.

Since January, when new chairman Blaise Ingoglia took over, the party has raised just $7.2 million. While well ahead of the Florida Democratic Party’s $4.3 million year-to-date fundraising efforts, the numbers are more than $1 million shy of what party fundraising was heading into the 2012 presidential election cycle. Most years, the RPOF has raised at least $8.4 million by July.

Ingoglia has been hampered by the fact that he is also a member of the Florida House of Representatives. When the Legislature is in session, the Spring Hill Republican is barred from raising money by legislative rules. But critics say the problem is deeper than that.

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MEREDITH O’ROURKE PICKS ADAM PUTNAM OVER RICK SCOTT via Gary Fineout for his blog, The Fine Print

Everyone is aware that … Scott has been raising money for his own political committee … as opposed to raising money for the state Republican Party this year.

But a closer look shows that contributions shows a bit of slowdown in the last three months. His largest contribution during that period hasn’t been any actual cash but a large in-kind donation courtesy of Walt Disney World that he got from them in order to hold his economic growth summit with presidential contenders.

Meredith O’Rourke, one of the state’s most sought after GOP fundraisers, is no longer working on behalf of the governor … took its last payment for $25,000 from Let’s Get to Work on April 17.

So what led to her departure? Sources close to O’Rourke say that Scott gave her an ultimatum: Either raise money for me, or raise money for Adam Putnam, a likely contender for governor in 2018. This is apparently not the first time that Scott had asked O’Rourke to make this choice. But this time around O’Rourke chose Putnam.

RICK SCOTT WANTS MEDICAID INSURANCE, HOSPITAL CONTRACTS EXAMINED via Kelli Kennedy of the Associated Press

Scott is targeting health insurers participating in the state Medicaid program, accusing them of negotiating hospital rates that are too high, which he says is the reason the new managed care program is not generating enough savings.

Scott instructed state health officials … to examine hospital contracts, warning that those with rates higher than 120 percent of the Medicaid cap will be subject to an “immediate corrective action plan” that could nullify the contracts and kick insurers out of the Medicaid program.

“Let’s never forget that all Medicaid payments are paid for by taxpayers of our state,” Scott wrote in the letter.

WHAT THE GOV’S OFFICE IS TOUTING — AMAZON ADDING 2,000 NEW JOBS IN RUSKIN AND LAKELAND via Justine Griffin of the Tampa Bay Times

Amazon dramatically increased its footprint in central Florida … confirming that it will hire 2,000 people at its distribution centers in Ruskin and Lakeland, doubling its work force as it continues to reshape the way people shop.

The online retailer already employs more than 2,000 people in Ruskin and Lakeland. The addition of 2,000 jobs — which the company says will pay about 30 percent more than the average retail salary.

Just last week, more than 1,400 people applied for jobs at Amazon through a job fair hosted by the Helen Gordon Davis Centre for Women … It was the second time in a year that the Centre had hosted a job fair with Amazon.

Amazon will host another job fair on Aug. 28 at Hillsborough Community College’s South Shore Campus in the new science building from 8:30 a.m. to noon and from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will announce job creation in Broward County at a 9:30 a.m. press conference at HOERBIGER, 1381 SW 30th Ave. in Pompano Beach.

7,000 MORE FLORIDA STUDENTS TURN TO HOMESCHOOLING, LARGEST INCREASE IN 10 YEARS via iSchoolGuide.com

Florida has recorded its highest-ever increase in the number of homeschooled students across the state in the last decade with over 7,000 students. Duval County is currently leading in the state with over 6,106 homeschooled students. The state has 9,459 students being homeschooled to date.

The increase … was partly due to the rising number of blended and online learning opportunities that allowed families more flexibility. Home Education Resources and Information Chairperson Karen Harmon said she believes the change has been triggered by the implementation of the Common Core education standards.

Bullying, under-performing local schools, religion, dissatisfaction with government-run schools, and school violence are among the reasons why parents choose to homeschool their children … The rising popularity of online learning is one key reason why many families in Florida were attracted to homeschooling. Parents could choose to enroll their children in online classes or in full-time virtual charter schools. The flexibility that online learning provides is what makes it more convenient for families to consider blended learning opportunities for their children, where they combine traditional education with tech-driven projects and activities …

JACKPOT TIME AT THE FLORIDA LOTTERY via Gary Fineout for his blog, The Fine Print

(O)ne important advantage that the Scott administration continues to have is that state agencies with huge budgets are responsible for doling out large contracts. This attracts high-profile lobbyists who themselves can raise a lot of money for potential candidates. And right now some of the bigger contracts up for bid are at the Florida Lottery.

This includes a contract for the department’s lottery online games that is at least worth $300 million over the next 10 years. The existing contract with lottery operator Gtech was scheduled to expire at the end of September 2015. The agency put the contract out to bid in March 2014 – in the middle of a heated election year – and then….nothing.

Gtech is represented by lobbyists with deep connections to Scott, including Brian Ballard and his team as well as long-time Scott friend and lobbyist Bill Rubin. Scientific Games was represented by well-known Tallahassee figures Jim Magill and Mac Stipanovich until June 16 – the same day that Gtech got its extension. Right now the only listed executive branch lobbyist for the company is former Lottery Secretary David Griffin.

The third vendor that bid on the lottery contract is linked to a company called Camelot Global Services, which is represented by lobbyists at the firm of Southern Strategy Group.

KEYS ARE TIRED OF FDOT’S TACTICS via the Miami Herald

Unchecked government agencies have been known to play hardball, and in the Florida Keys some business owners and residents are complaining over what they consider the strong-arm tactics of the Florida Department of Transportation currently centered in Islamorada.

For decades, roadside businesses along U.S. 1 have used the front of their properties for parking and to display signs and their wares. A little over a year ago, FDOT officials began showing up at establishments in Key Largo saying things like, “You know that parking lot you’ve been using since 1972? It’s ours. Pay up, or get out.”

Businesses owners … in Key Largo took a particularly hard beating. FDOT insisted her parking lot, which she used since 1982, belonged to the state. After months of back and forth — tearing up Mattson’s parking lot, only to repave it weeks later — FDOT ended up mandating … a half-roundabout driveway that only serves to confuse customers.

When FDOT was done with its pointless exercise of wielding power just because it could … the agency moved on to target businesses on the bayside of the highway from mile marker 98 to 107. These property and business owners, too, were told by FDOT that land they thought was theirs, in many instances for generations, is state right-of-way. Businesses had two options — abandon the land, giving up precious parking and signage space, or work out a lease agreement with FDOT.

FDOT is good at letting the public know about things like lane closures and other delays we might experience from construction. But the agency gets a failing grade on gathering input before it makes decisions that deeply impact Keys people and businesses.

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A LEGISLATIVE SESSION THAT GOES ON AND ON… via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

After the regular 60-day session broke down in a major philosophical fight over health care, legislators needed an extra three weeks to finish the budget. Now they need two more weeks … to fix flawed boundaries of eight congressional districts … After that comes Special Session C, for up to three weeks starting Oct. 19, to redo Senate districts … It’s possible legislators will need even more time to extend the gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Throw in the weeks of Nov. 16 and 30 for regular committee meetings and the earlier-than-usual start of the 2016 session next Jan. 12, and it’s little wonder that voters so often confuse their part-time Tallahassee representatives with full-time members of Congress who live in Washington most of the time.

The last time there were four special sessions in the same year was in 2007, in Charlie Crist‘s first year as governor — but none lasted more than five days. Is this what Republicans mean when they talk about “limited government?”

AARP: 2015 LEGISLATIVE SESSION’S SUCCESSES AND FAILURES WERE ‘HISTORIC’ via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times

The Florida AARP … released its voting record for the 2015 legislative session and special budget session.

Unlike some groups, AARP doesn’t rank lawmakers based on their votes during the session, but the document provides an insight into priorities the activism group for older Floridians has going into the 2016 session, especially given how many bills failed to pass amid rancor between the House and Senate.

On their list of failed bills that AARP says should have passed … The Florida Health Insurance Exchange plan … expand advanced registered nurse practitioners’ ability to prescribe drugs and care for patients … Set up a regulatory framework for telemedicine … Bills to make texting while driving a more easily enforced offense and to enhance road safety for pedestrians and cyclists.

AFP GRADES FLORIDA LEGISLATORS ON ECONOMIC ISSUES via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News

Americans for Prosperity’s (AFP) Florida chapter unveiled its legislative scorecard, grading Florida legislators on their commitment to economic conservatism.

Two Republicans in the Florida Senate … Jeff Brandes … Travis Hutson received “A+” grades … named “champions of economic freedom” … More than 40 members of the Florida House, all Republicans, including House Speaker Steve Crisafulli … also earned “A+” grades from AFP. The conservative group stood with the House against Medicaid expansion while the Senate supported it.

Legislators were graded on a host of votes on regulation, taxes and other economics issues. Chris Hudson, AFP’s director in Florida, noted more legislators garnered higher scores this year when compared to last year.

Rep. Shev Jones … was the highest ranking Democrat in the House with a score of 81 from AFP, giving him a “B” grade. Sen. Oscar Braynon … was the highest ranking Democrat in the Senate with an 84, giving him a “B” grade.

TWEET, TWEET: @GNewburn: I’m begging the legislature to put just a little more money into the Office of Executive Clemency. One or two staffers? Anything would help.

DESTIN MAYOR MEL PONDER FILES TO SUCCEED MATT GAETZ IN HD 4 via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics

A third Republican has filed to run for the District 4 House seat being vacated by Fort Walton Beach Rep. Matt Gaetz, who is eyeing his father’s Senate seat in the 2016 cycle … Destin Mayor Mel Ponder announced he was running for the seat … hitting small government and conservative values that play well in the panhandle districts.

Ponder joins Armand Izzo and Wayne Harris in the race, though neither candidate has much of a head start. Izzo filed for the seat on July 23 and has yet to post any campaign finance numbers, while initial numbers for Harris, an Okaloosa County Commissioner, showed $7,550 in contributions for June.

MANNY DIAZ QUALIFIES EARLY FOR RE-ELECTION IN HD 103 via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics

Hialeah Republican Manny Diaz announced … his 2016 reelection campaign gathered enough signatures to get his name on the ballot next year. In order to get on the ballot, candidates running for the Florida Legislature must pay a fee of $1,781.82 or get 1 percent of the district to sign a petition. For Diaz’s District 103 seat, that shakes out to 821 signatures.

The announcement signals a strong start for Diaz, who is running for a third term in the House … he is the first incumbent legislator to qualify for the 2016 ballot.

Diaz isn’t likely to face any strong primary challengers in 2016 and so far, Democrats haven’t had much luck despite President Obama taking 56 percent of the vote there in 2012. Diaz blew out Democrat Benjamin F. DeYurre in 2014 and took 100 percent of the vote in the general election in 2012 after displacing former Rep. Renier Diaz de la Portilla in the Republican Primary that year.

FLORIDA MEDICAL ASSOCIATION INSTALLS RALPH NOBO AS PRESIDENT FOR 2015-2016 via Florida Politics

Dr. Ralph Nobo, Jr. has become the 139th president of the Florida Medical Association.

Nobo, an obstetrician/gynecologist in private practice in Bartow, was officially sworn in … at the 2015 FMA Annual Meeting at Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resort in Orlando.

“Dr. Nobo has served organized medicine and the FMA at every level, and he is a tireless advocate for Florida physicians and their patients,” said FMA Executive Vice President Timothy Stapleton in a statement. “He is also an expert when it comes to understanding how the legislative process affects the practice of medicine.

Over the past three decades, Nobo served the FMA in numerous roles, including FMA PAC President, FMA President-Elect, Vice President, Secretary, and Delegate to the American Medical Association. Nobo succeeds Alan Pillersdorf, who served as the FMA president from 2014-2015.

CONTEXT FLORIDA: SALT SHAKER, WEIRD REPUBLICANS, DO POLLS MATTER AND SUSPECT VETOES

On Context FloridaSteve Vancore applies the Salt Shaker Test to recently released findings from a poll showing strong support for two statewide ballot initiatives being proposed in Florida. The first is John Morgan’s second take on medical marijuana and the other is a $10.00 per hour minimum wage being offered by a group known as “League of Voters, Extraordinaire.” Maybe it’s the excitement of the upcoming candidate debate, the influence of Pluto, or the infernal heat, but Diane Roberts thinks Florida Republicans are acting weirder than usual. Peter Schorsch wonders about the half a dozen or so polls – taken 15 months out from the primaries – and asks if any of them really matter. Some do, he says, because they show some interesting trends; others don’t, because of highly suspect methodology. Schorsch points out which ones are which. Much has been written about Gov. Rick Scott’s vetoes of member projects in the recent state budget. Although every governor has vetoed parts of the budget, Barney Bishop says that this time was unusual because the governor had only a very short window to make his vetoes known. Although he vetoed a lot of projects, it does raise a legitimate issue of whether such items should be vetoed simply because they’re member projects.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

TWEET, TWEET: @FSUTickets: Due to high demand, we are no longer taking ticket requests for the following @FSU_Football away games: BC, Ga Tech, & Clemson

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to HCA’s Ryan Anderson, Leon County Commissioner Mary Ann Lindley and my man, Herbie Thiele (how do you pronounce his last name?)

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.